When the COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions meant putting the Mackay Mind centre’s group activities on hold, Mind peer practitioner Kristie Bell was determined to find a way to keep them going.
"It all happened so quickly," Kristie says. "Suddenly we just had to put these groups we’d built up since we opened last year on hold. I thought we can’t undo all this good work with clients and let it go to waste."
Kristie had been facilitating Mind Recovery College™ courses three times a week for groups of about five people.
"We had a six-week course learning about anxiety and managing the symptoms, a course in confidence building and one in assertiveness skills."
"We can’t undo all this good work with clients and let it go to waste."
Kristie immediately started playing around with the course material and quickly turned it into a work-from-home program so clients could still do courses without coming to the centre.
"I emailed clients the lesson on the day they would have had a class and over time it evolved to become easier to read and with new ideas."
"I’d offer a one-on-one phone conversation with each participant to help them work on each lesson or they could text or email any questions. Sometimes people had motivation issues being at home, so that regular contact and the check-ins really helped keep them motivated."
To Kristie’s surprise the courses became more popular than ever and the groups grew in size as a result.
"The beauty of it was that people who have social anxiety issues were able to participate in the course so we actually had an increase in participation by about double."
"We have some regulars who sign up for everything and keep attending, which is great for their recovery as they not only learn valuable life skills but really build their social skills. But other clients can find it difficult to come. They are really keen to do it but, when it comes the time, they can’t quite do it."
Kristie says distance was also an issue for clients.
"Mackay is very spread out so a suburb can be 45 minutes away and the travel can be difficult – it can be hard for clients to come in for that first course experience."
"Offering the courses by remote learning has given those people who weren’t able to come in and do it a taste of what we do," Kristie says.
"That means we get to build a relationship with people and they feel more comfortable about coming in and doing it in person. And even if they don’t, they still have the option now of doing it at home."
"I worked with our Mind Learning and Development consultant and she is keen to keep the remote courses going as an alternative for those who can’t come in and as a means of getting people comfortable with it. We will still encourage people to come in face to face for groups for the social benefits of that but it has been a really positive and unexpected development for us and our clients."
"We get to build a relationship with people and they feel more comfortable about coming in."